Notes: Complete, crossover with Magnificent Seven and a story in the Echos the Sea/Aces Immortal series. Thanks to strangevisitor7 and ninjababe for the beta, the conferences, the hand-holding.
Characters: Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Ezra Standish, Joe Dawson, Kronos, Original Characters.
Summary: It’s been a century and a half since Methos last saw Charlotte and Ezra. His reappearance in their lives brings back many memories; not all of them happy ones.
Added Note: While there is no major character death in this, deaths a century in the past are referenced. I guess it comes with the territory when writing about Immortals.
And What's Left Is Joy
“You can give me my sword and we can get on with it,”Charlotte answered, trying to keep her voice from shaking.
Kronos snorted. “We really are eager to die, aren’t we?” Then he became thoughtful. “But of course you are; you want me gone. Such protective instincts; how very noble.”
She mentally berated herself for being so obvious. Maude would have been appalled at her ineptness. “I merely see no point in delaying the inevitable,” she said, with nothing but a vain hope he might believe her.
“Yes, of course.” Laughing softly, he shook his head. “Well then, I always do hate to keep a lady waiting.” He quickly cut away the ropes that tied her to the chair. “Shall we?”
Summer lay like a blanket over the desert of New Mexico, the weight of it nearly suffocating as they stood in the center of the courtyard, the accumulated heat of the day radiating up from the terracotta tiles at their feet. From the trees around them, cicadas buzzed an irritating counterpoint to the hiss of the wind as it blew around the eaves of the house.
Kronos looked at her critically. “I’m not sure there’s even any point; just look at you!”
Legs still unsteady from her recent death, dress drenched in her own blood, Charlotte did her best to mentally prepare for the upcoming challenge. It was a fight she had no hope of winning, but at least she would die with her sword in hand. Her only response to his mocking words was to raise her sword. Saying a silent prayer for God to protect her family after she was gone, she shivered. Dear God, please don’t let Ezra or the children find my body.
“You won’t last more than five minutes, you know. Best to just let me take your head and save yourself unnecessary suffering.” When she still didn’t respond, he shrugged. “If you insist.”
The battle reached its inevitable conclusion, though Charlotte did last longer than five minutes. How long it was in actuality, she had no idea. The only thing driving her was living just a few more minutes, a few more seconds of the sun on her face before the end. The pain, exhaustion, even the burning agony of her lungs, all of it she’d pushed aside. The only reality was the weapon in her hand. Then it was over: his blade skewering through her shoulder, sword falling from now useless fingers, his hand around the grip of his sword smashing into her jaw, sending her crashing to the ground.
Barely conscious after the blow to her head, she waited for the end. Soon, she would see Jack again, and that thought brought comfort through the fear. She’d had a life that had been lived to its fullest, and what lay beyond was peace. She hoped there was an ocean in heaven; she’d missed the sea these years in New Mexico. Certain she could hear the sound of the surf and the call of gulls, a calm settled over her and she was no longer afraid. But that calm was fleeting as Kronos rolled her onto her back with a booted foot, looking down at her with glittering eyes. Like an eagle she thought absently.
“Now that was unexpected; you actually have potential,” he said approvingly. “Very little surprises me anymore, and I think that deserves some sort of reward.” Her confusion must have been plain on her face. “Why, you get to live, of course.” As if it should be obvious.
It had to be some sort of trick; he was toying with her. From somewhere, she found her voice. “I don’t believe you.”
“Of course you don’t; Methos has filled your head with tales of his past that make him feel less guilt over his actions.” He reached out a hand which she very tentatively took, and he pulled her into a sitting position. “There’s always a place for those of us with promise. The Game,” he shrugged, “it is a waste. When we could rule the mortal sheep of this world, we spend the time instead killing our own kind.”
Maybe she was already dead, and this was some sort of purgatory where she would spend the better part of eternity having philosophical discussions with Kronos on the nature of Immortality.
Kronos continued, apparently content to carry the conversation himself. “Methos was your teacher, that’s obvious in your fighting style. Spanish too, like your sword,” he jutted his chin towards where her sword lay a few feet away, “and something else I can’t quite put my finger on.” He looked at her expectantly for an answer.
“You surprise me again, little one. Now that’s a story I would very much like to hear; and there’ll be time for that over the next few days.”
She blanched at his words, all the terror from before crashing back. Rolling, she reached for her blade, but Kronos was faster, kicking it out of her reach.
“Now, now, there will be none of that.” He hauled her to her feet, his fingers digging into her shoulders. “My horse needs a few days rest before I get back on the trail. And while you are very beautiful,” his lips were at her ear, “when I find Methos, I want him to owe me for not taking your head…or anything else, while I was here.”
San Luis Obispo ~ Present Day
“So certain that it was nothing more than a cruel trick, I spent the next three days in terror. But he was good to his word and he rode away, confident that it was only a matter of time till he found you.”
Neither of them spoke, both lost in their own memories. Finally Methos said, “And the next time?”
Charlotte shrank in on herself, shoulders hunching as she wrapped her arms tight around her chest, shaking her head.
“What did he tell you?” she asked in a strained voice.
Methos sighed, rubbing her back. “That fifty years later he found you outside an opium den, that you’d lost the will to live and he dragged you back from the brink.” His tone made it obvious that he wanted her to say it wasn’t true.
She wished more than anything she could tell him it was a lie, but she couldn’t. “Will it be enough for you to know he spoke the truth? I was without hope, Methos, and all I wanted was for the darkness to end. I was grateful Kronos found me, grateful knowing that finally, I was going to die. But I didn’t get my wish; the darkness didn’t go away. But for a while, I learned to make the dark my friend.” She pushed herself to her feet. “I will not revisit the memories of those years willingly, Methos, not even for you,” she told him fiercely.
He reached up, taking her hands in his. “And you don’t have to, love.” She let him pull her down to sit on the ground between his legs and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close.
“I’m sorry, Methos.”
“For being so angry with you for leaving for so long. Even after that first meeting with Kronos, I didn’t really understand. It was only after, that I realized that it wasn’t fear of Kronos, but fear that you would be drawn back into the dark.”
“There was no way you could understand it, Charlotte, not really. And I wish you never had to; for that, I am truly sorry.”
“Sometimes, I’m terrified I’ll fall again, go back to that place,” she admitted in a tremulous whisper.
“That was another reason, if I’d needed another, that Kronos had to die.” His arms tightened around her. “When he found me again, he told me I was a fool, a fool for leaving you behind. Kronos had plans to rule the world, and a part of those plans included you. He thought he was giving me a great gift, reuniting us. He even told me he knew where you were, but that was knowledge he never shared before MacLeod took his head.”
Charlotte trembled, all of her nightmares made real, battering at her soul.
“Shhhh, it’s okay. He can’t reach either of us ever again. You were right before; we have a future to live. We’ll let the past remain where it belongs from now on, I promise.”
She nodded, leaning against him, letting the warmth of his body chase away the cold of the past. “Does a part of that future include us?” she asked softly.
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know, Methos, maybe I need to hear you say the words.”
Laughing softly, he stroked her hair. “Yes, Charlotte, that future includes us.”
“I’m glad.” She tilted her head back, meeting his lips with hers. Breaking the kiss, she shifted, putting her palms against his chest. “I was thinking that maybe you’d like to move in, officially, that is.” Methos had practically been living at her house since their reunion a few weeks before, but he still hadn’t given up his apartment in Paris or had his belongings shipped. “We could live in sin,” she told him with a saucy grin.
“I can do sin,” he assured her, his voice taking on a smoky intensity that made her shiver.
“That’s what I’m hoping,” was all she managed to say before his lips claimed hers once more.
Charlotte approached the table where Methos sat with Duncan, Joe Dawson, and her godson, Chris Tanner, next to the bar at the Standish & Black Saloon. As she reached the men, Ezra appeared at her side, flashing her a warm smile. She felt weightless with love and joy in that moment, realizing just how extraordinarily fortunate she was. The irony that she owed some of that to Kronos was not lost on her. Returning Ezra’s smile, she squeezed his arm. With her other hand, she waved the men back to their seats when they would have stood at her arrival. Then she focused her attention on Joe.
“Mr. Dawson, I hope you will accept my apology for my inexcusable rudeness of yesterday. I should not have judged you based on my feelings for your organization, and for that, I am sincerely sorry.”
“You don’t owe me an apology, ma’am, but thank you. Chris here has told me a little bit about his family’s history with yours, and I can’t say I blame you for how you feel.”
Chris smiled at his godparents. “It’ll be okay, Uncle Ezra, Aunt Lottie; Joe and I have had a long talk, and he won’t betray the Tanners.”
“I believe that, Chris, and I am much relieved.” Charlotte could deal with Watchers, but her greatest fear was the repercussions that would fall on the Tanners if it was ever discovered that they had been protecting Charlotte and Ezra from their notice all these years.
“Joe’s a good man,” Duncan affirmed, “and a good friend.”
“I hope I can prove to you that their trust in me isn’t a mistake,” Joe said, waving a hand at Methos and Duncan.
She glanced at Ezra and he nodded slightly. “I’m hoping that we will have the opportunity to get to know one another better in future. In fact, I was hoping you might consider becoming the manager of the saloon, as Methos suggested yesterday.”
Joe’s eyes widened in surprise. He opened his mouth as if to reply, but no sound passed his lips.
“Now that doesn’t happen very often; Dawson at a loss for words,” Methos said with a snigger.
“Are you sure?” Joe finally asked Charlotte. “I mean, you don’t have to….”
Ezra interrupted. “We’re quite sure, Mr. Dawson. Believe me when I tell you that neither Charlotte nor I make business decisions based on sentiment. We believe that you are the right man for the job, coming as you do with considerable experience, and, shall we say…,” he paused, “unique insights into certain segments of our clientele.”
Joe snorted with laughter, looking at Methos and Duncan. “Yeah, unique insights, those I got.” He jerked his chin at Methos. “He allowed to run a tab?”
“Absolutely not!” Ezra and Charlotte coursed in unison.
“Hey!” Methos protested.
“I’m gonna like it here,” Joe said, a grin splitting his face.
“I’ll remind you of that after you’ve met my mother,” Ezra said, a mischievous gleam in his eyes. Chris laughed and Methos groaned.
“I think Mr. Dawson can handle Maude. I’m actually more concerned for Duncan’s virtue; he is a very attractive man,” she said teasingly.
“Thanks, I think.” Duncan glared at Methos who was chortling next to him.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait!” Methos slapped Duncan on the shoulder. “You’ll make a lovely couple, Mac.”
“I believe we all have a great deal to celebrate, and if you’d like to make your way out to the patio, you’ll find a small celebratory repast has been prepared,” Ezra informed them.
The men made their way to the back of the saloon, but Charlotte placed a hand on Ezra’s arm, stopping him. “A moment, Ezra.”
He looked at her questioningly. “Of course Charlotte, what is it?”
“I’ve asked Methos to move in with me. I know it’s too much to ask for your blessing, but I hope you can at least be happy for me.” Her voice was full of uncertainty.
“I know you love him, Charlotte, and while I haven’t always been entirely supportive of your feelings for the man,” he sighed, rubbing at his chin, “all I have ever wanted is for you to be happy. If that means Methos is a part of your life once more, then yes, you have my blessing. Not that you have ever needed it.”
“You’re wrong, Ezra. Your good opinion has always mattered, and that will never change.”
Ezra pulled her into his arms, hugging her tight.
“Hey, you two, get a move on; champagne’s getting warm,” Methos called from the doorway, gesturing at them impatiently.
“On the other hand….” Ezra said dryly.
End Notes: what happened when Kronos met Charlotte for the second time has yet to be written, but the aftermath of those events can be found in Bound.